Dignitas Personae

In a major position paper on Bioethics, the Vatican has clarified its position on a number of the most significant bioethical issues of modern times.  And the title of the paper means “On the Dignity of a Person”.  That title gives a clear signal from the beginning that the Biblical mandate to “not murder” and to ‘love our neighbors as ourselves’ is the starting point for everything that follows.  

As a Christian, I believe that God created us, and did so as the final act in creation, after which he said “It is very good”.  That “very” stands in contrast to each of the other acts of creation, after which God merely said “It is good”.  Man was the crowning glory of his creation.  And it is from Him – our creator-God – that we derive our dignity (our value or worth).  

So without this grounding, what are we left with?  I would say that there are only two alternatives – either we believe we came up from the primordial soup, or we came to Earth as passengers on a comet or other “spaceship” from another world.  Either way, from what do we derive our value?  Because we feel it in our hearts?  Because we say so?

Well one person’s feelings may say we should love our neighbor, and another’s may say we should eat him!  And without a transcending authority, who is to say that the laws made up by one group of men will be accepted by another?  The truth is that whether we accept the transcendent authority of God to be the final rule-giver, we will absolutely never agree on anything.

The Vatican has performed an incredibly valuable service in writing this paper, which is their prayerfully wrought, meticulously researched and academically rendered interpretation of what scripture (God’s very Word) has to say about today’s bioethical issues.  So, while many people are hissing and complaining that they should not be subject to what the Vatican says, we might do well to thank them for their faithful service to “persons” everywhere.

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